Musical Direction for a Road Trip

Introduction

Last month we did a series of improv shows with Quicksilver Productions, and this year they decided to do a couple of Road Trips.  Here’s how I went about musical direction for this kind of format.

The Format

A Road Trip is a very verbose long form format. The premise is simple: a group of people take the car to go somewhere.  The audience decides who these folks are (e.g. a group of lawyers, coworkers in a hamburger joint, members of a line fishing club, you name it) as well as where they are going.  It doesn’t really matter where as long as it’s “far from here” – i.e. the trip should take several hours.

Additional audience input is possible. e.g. ask for every character a personality trait, a secret wish or desire or whatever.

The format itself is basically what goes on in the car as they are driving.  Or not driving, e.g. during a bathroom break.  Or perhaps the car breaks down.

The story goes linearly and the idea is to have multiple scenes, with time jumps in between them, so you can have different self-contained sub-scenes.  But of course, a conversation them may come back.

Road Trip with Quicksilver (2017)
A performance of the format Road Trip by Quicksilver Productions (2017)

Musical Direction

In a format like this it is unlikely there will be singing, so it would mainly be underscoring – I had done this kind of stuff before.  But for this series I had something else in mind: since I am located in Belgium, pretty centrally in Europe, and since Belgium is such a tiny country – an hour’s drive in just about any direction will take you abroad.  So I decided to sample radio stations from all over Europe and basically DJ the performance.  I’ had used my keyboard for DJ-ing in other formats before.

I made 88 samples (there are 88 keys on my keyboard) and organized them by country, e.g. Holland, Germany, France, Denmark, UK, Poland, Greece and so forth, and allocated samples to keys.  The set list functionality on my keyboard helps me find back samples easily as shown below.

Keyboard sampled for a Road Trip
My setup on the keyboard for MD-ing a Road Trip. Samples organised by country (bottom tabs) and individual samples mapped to keys, e.g. french radio publicity mapped to A1#

The shows were a blast!  As you can see in the first picture above they had a real car (front) bumper on stage, so we had a real “car feeling”.    I used DJ-ed music during the edits between the scenes, and usually that morphed into the radio playing in the car. But players also messed about with the radio, changing stations and so forth.

And even though I did not expect any singing, in one trip (to Norway) one of the singers got pimped into singing a Norwegian folk song.

In the pic below you get to see me in the performance.

Road Trip (2017)
Musical direction for a Road Trip format, with Quicksilver Productions (2017)

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